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Merrill shrugs off the herd mentality

There is no room for nostalgia in the new-look Merrill Lynch. Charles Merrill might have wanted to bring Wall Street to the masses but it is the affluent who command the most attention from his successors. Since 2000, James Gorman has shaken up the private-client business with dramatic results.

James Gorman, who once had his
capabilities questioned, is agressively
pursuing a three-pronged approach to
attract wealthier private

IT WAS 64 YEARS ago when Charles Merrill embarked on his dream of "bringing Wall Street to Main Street" and began building the mass-market brokerage franchise that today makes Merrill Lynch global private clients' (GPC) business the largest of its kind in the world. "Good-time Charlie", as he was fondly nicknamed, firmly believed that the ultra-rich should not be the only ones to profit from the stock markets. A Southerner with humble roots, Merrill set out to convince the middle classes that they should be investing in stocks, and to enable them to do so without fear of being swindled. It's a story immortalized on the "Wall of Champions" at the GPC flagship office in New York's World Financial Centre. Adaptations of Charles Merrill's code of ethics also adorn the entrance halls, and senior executives know them off by heart. "Client focus, respect for the individual, teamwork, responsible citizenship and integrity – we attempt to live those five principles on a regular basis," says Marsha Jones, head of the flagship branch office.

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